N.Y. state senator found guilty of obstructing U.S. embezzlement probe

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 24, 2015 4:34 PM

By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York state senator was convicted on Friday for seeking to obstruct a federal investigation into whether he had embezzled proceeds from sales of foreclosed properties, in one of a series of recent U.S. prosecutions of state lawmakers.

John Sampson, 50, a Democrat who has represented southeastern Brooklyn, New York, since 1997, was found guilty by a federal jury in Brooklyn on three counts, including obstruction, but acquitted on six others.

The verdict was confirmed by a spokeswoman for Acting Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Kelly Currie. Sampson's lawyer, Nick Akerman, did not respond to requests for comment.

The case against Sampson, a former minority leader of the state Senate, was among a series of prosecutions of politicians based in New York's capital of Albany, which in the last year has seen the leaders of both of its legislative chambers indicted for corruption.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan earlier this year brought charges against Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, forcing both to leave their leadership posts, though they remain in office as senators.

On Wednesday, a federal jury in White Plains found Thomas Libous, the deputy majority leader of the Senate, guilty of lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation during a public corruption probe.

Prosecutors had initially charged Sampson in 2013 with embezzling $440,000 from escrow accounts related to Brooklyn properties that he controlled in his role as a court-appointed referee in foreclosure proceedings.

He was accused of using the money to help pay expenses for an unsuccessful 2005 primary bid for Brooklyn district attorney.

But U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry dismissed the embezzlement charges in October on statute of limitations grounds, leaving prosecutors to take him to trial on charges that Sampson attempted to impede their investigation.

Prosecutors said that in 2006, Sampson asked an associate in the real-estate industry, Edul Ahmad, for $188,500 to help repay some of the stolen money, out of fear it could subject him to prosecution.

After Ahmad was indicted in 2011 as part of a mortgage-fraud scheme, Sampson attempted to prevent him from cooperating with authorities and sought information about that case from a paralegal in the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's office, Sam Noel.

Both Ahmad and Noel ultimately pleaded guilty to federal charges and testified at trial against Sampson.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Bill Rigby)